Just A Bunch of Important Punk Records

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UPDATE 5/11 10:20 AM: wow, thanks to everyone for sharing and reading! Didn’t expect this kind of response. A little disclaimer: we are aware there are some records left off. That was done purposely either because of our own preferences, or because RS already listed them. Yeah, bands like The Exploited, Sex Pistols, etc are extremely important to punk in general, but this is more of a list of our own personal albums. We wrote this list as a counter to Rolling Stone – if you don’t like our list, I suggest you do the same and write your own.

By now, I’m sure y’all have seen the horrendous “top 40 punk albums” Rolling Stone listed. While there are a lot of good ones on there, they left out a bunch of great records. And I mean, to be fair, so did we – it’s impossible to actually list all of the great punk records. I’ll probably decide in a couple of weeks that I left out a band or two and have to revisit it. I don’t even know how many are in this list. Also, keep in mind, none of these are in order. I can’t rank albums. Anyway, my best friend Anna Theodora (AT) and I (AK) decided to put our own list together, because clearly, we know better. And I’m sure y’all do too. This is a “living list” – there’s always going to be more records to add.

The Undertones – The Undertones (1979)

This is the same band that wrote the “song so nice, John Peel played it twice” and ultimately got tattooed across his gravestone (the famous DJ also was lowered to said  grave with the song playing) – “Teenage Kicks.” This is arguably one of the greatest pop songs of all time, but the Undertones self titled album had all the same punk attitude as The Ramones and The Clash. Pop jams like “Here Comes The Summer” and “Get Over You” fit right in with the more punk infused songs like “Male Model” and “Family Entertainment.” This Belfast based band managed to write upbeat, almost “cute” songs even being in the center of the Troubles while bands like Stiff Little Fingers wrote more anti-war protest songs. The album is dripping with harmonies, mod inspired licks, and uplifting verses not found in other punk bands from the time. (AK)

Ramones – Leave Home (1977)

Note: this is for the original release featuring “Carbona Not Glue”

A lot of people would put Ramones or Rocket To Russia here, but with the ultimate huffer jam “Carbona Not Glue” (not to be confused with the OG “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”), impeccable middle finger “Glad To See You Go,” and theme for the mentally ill “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” I can only put the Ramones’ sophomore album here. A little more refined than their self-titled debut, but still a little dirtier than Rocket To Russia, Leave Home is full of the 3 chord Ramones staples everyone knows and loves. Featuring a cover of “California Sun” (Henry Glover) and one of the best Ramones’ love songs of all time, “Oh Oh I Love Her So,” this album stays true to the first record’s 60’s influenced lyrics and snotty teenage attitude. The song “You’re Gonna Kill That Girl” definitely shows a maturity in their songwriting, though, with an intro that almost doesn’t fit with the rest of the song, and an allusion to “Great Big Kiss” by the Shangri-Las. Of course, a Ramones album is incomplete without a song about a punk girl with a two syllable name, and “Suzy Is A Headbanger” covers that. Overall, this is an album to play LOUD and sing along to – and with the repetitive lyrics the Ramones have, that’s not hard. (AK)

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Ramones – Rocket To Russia (1977)

When I was a kid, my parents would play the classic rock station in our car, and when “I Wanna be Sedated” would come on, I’d excitedly bounce in my car seat and squeak along to what I thought were the words, improvising choruses and verses and dancing in place. When I was 11, I loved Green Day. American Idiot had just come out (which I know is dating me), and it was in constant rotation in my little CD player, and I listened with the rapt attention that only a starry-eyed preteen could have. My dad helpfully suggested I should check out the Ramones – “they’re from here, this whole punk thing started right where you live.” I was sold. One sunny Saturday, I collected all of my dimes and quarters and dollar bills I had saved from my allowance, biked to my neighborhood’s music store, grabbed a copy of Rocket to Russia and got on my tip toes to place it on the counter, while painstakingly counting out my small bills and loose change. I murmured an awkward apology to the notoriously grumpy guy manning the register who laughed and said, “don’t apologize! This is punk rock!” I was hooked from then on. 

Nothing in this review has spoken to the musical quality of this album, but the Ramones never were about that. The energy and the passion behind the three chords and the feeling that anyone could do this if they wanted to was what roped me in and held me there, and I know I’m far from speaking for myself. This album opened my eyes and led me to what has absolutely shaped my life and I couldn’t be more thankful that a bunch of dudes from Queens who didn’t like each other all that much decided to get on the stage at CBGBs and count out that “1-2-3-4.” The world is better off for it. (AT)

Minor Threat – Complete Discography (1989)

Yeah, yeah – compilation albums shouldn’t count. However, as one of the most important hardcore bands of all time, it’s impossible to pinpoint just one of Minor Threat’s releases. This compilation includes all of their greatest songs, like “Filler” and the eponymous “Minor Threat” and is peppered with covers by bands like Wire and The Standells. Minor Threat paved the way for the straightedge scene, with their “don’t smoke/don’t drink/don’t fuck” (“Out Of Step”) attitude and seriously contributed to the Washington, DC, hardcore scene. Their own record label, Dischord, released influential bands like Void, Government Issue, and Ian MacKaye’s brother Alec’s band, The Faith. (AK)

Black Flag – Damaged (1981) and My War (1984)

This was a difficult decision for me to make so I said fuck it – both of these albums are incredibly fucking solid, and extremely different for being released so close together. On Damaged, you can tell they’re young kids trying to get the hang of this whole music thing. Black Flag had been around for a couple of years, but this was their first LP. Considering that, some of the best Black Flag songs are on here. It starts off with a ripping guitar intro from Greg Ginn with “Rise Above,” the chorus filled with group chants you have to yell along to. “TV Party” is anthemic of teenagers partying in their parents’ basements, trying to delay boredom by drinking and watching TV. The album also includes songs previously sung by their old singers Keith Morris (Circle Jerks), Ron Reyes, and Dez Candena – including “Gimme Gimme Gimme” (one of the best drum songs of all time), “Depression,” and “Police Story,” an anti-cop slammer.

My War begins with one of the greatest punk build ups ever with the title track, with Rollins screeching “MY WAR!” If you’ve ever been betrayed by someone you trusted, you’ve probably screamed along to this song. You can tell that in a short time, the band has matured – less songs about getting fucked up, more songs about mental illness (“Depression” on Damaged is another). That’s one of my favorite things about Black Flag. Their songs get dark, and they aren’t afraid to talk about subjects other bands only lightly touch on. While the Ramones definitely have a lot of references to Joey Ramone’s mental instability, they do it in a more humorous way. Songs like “Can’t Decide” and “Beat My Head Against The Wall” bring up anxiety and depression in a darker, more serious tone. Their maturity also may be due in part to the greatest punk drummer, Bill Stevenson, who played on this record. (AK)

Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)

Released by Chiswick Records (The 101’ers, Nipple Erectors, Johnny Moped, Motorhead), this album might have one of the most highly regarded punk love songs – the aptly named “Love Song.” The Damned, with their stage names (Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies, Algy Ward), are darker than some of the other bands of their time, even verging a bit on the goth side of punk. “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” is a perfect example of them experimenting with goth rock, with heavy keys and reverb on the vocals. This album includes a cover of “Looking at You” by MC5, but the Damned speed it up, Vanian’s vocals wailing over the guitar and pounding drums, truly making it their own song. It would also be impossible to discuss Machine Gun Etiquette without discussing the masterpiece that is “Smash It Up pts 1 & 2” – part one is an instrumental, beautiful segment and flows perfectly into part two. Part two kicks in and makes you wanna dance, taking it from something pretty to a full on rock n roll song with driving drums. Fuck Rolling Stone magazine for skipping over this treasure of an album. (AK)

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Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material (1979)

This is one of the most important protest records of all time – Bob Dylan, step aside. Stiff Little Fingers are a band born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles – a period of civil war within the country between the Catholics and Protestants. This album completely reflects the issues they were accustomed to with songs like “Wasted Life”  and “Suspect Device,” rebelling against the propaganda surrounding them. Even the typical punk love song – “Barbed Wire Love” – is about finding your lover amongst the rubble and fighting hand in hand. “Alternative Ulster” is the ultimate war cry for the youth of Northern Ireland in this time period, about taking back your city.  For a bunch of kids in their early 20s, this is an extremely mature album. This album is a wake up call to reality amongst other records released the same year like The Damned’s Machine Gun Etiquette and even Belfast band The Undertones’ self titled album, that focus more on teen angst and love songs. This is the band that gave Northern Ireland a voice and spawned bands like Rudi, Protex, and even The Undertones. (AK)

The Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope (1978)

I guess most people would put London Calling here, but I’m not most people. I mean, “Safe European Home”? How can you hear that song and not want to hear the whole album? The record drives all the way through, playing a little with songs with similar chord progressions that are a little more refined than tracks like “Janie Jones” and “White Riot.”  It branches out a little bit from the self titled, which is more punk, I guess, but this album grabs you from the get-go. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones’ affinity for reggae shines through without being in-your-face like Sandinista! with shoutouts to Jamaica in the first track. It ends with “All The Young Punks,” stays true to the title – Mick Jones screeching “all you YOUNG CUNTS” – and discusses what it’s like to be a struggling punk musician. And of course, there’s “Stay Free,” always a favorite, tattooed on the knuckles of punks everywhere. When I was a kid, my parents used to make me brush my teeth by singing “tooth brushing time” to the tune of “Drug Stabbing Time.” While this is by no means everyone’s go-to Clash album, it rocks the whole way through. It may not be the obvious choice, but, tell me you don’t get chills every time you hear “go easy, step lightly, stay free.” (AK)

The Jam – In The City (1977)

At the same time the Ramones were donning their leather jackets and Sid Vicious was stabbing safety pins through his cheek, Paul Weller and co. were wearing suits n’ ties, looking mod as fuck – which kind of makes it an arguable topic that they’re actually a punk band. However, listening to songs like “Eton Rifles,” “Going Underground,” and “All Mod Cons” might make you re-evaluate your standpoint on this argument. Picking just one Jam record was next to impossible for me – one of my favorite teachers of all time, my world history teacher, would play “This Is The Modern World” when we studied the modern world, and my dad’s favorite is Setting Sons. And I mean, picking Snap would be cheating. But after a serious mental debate, I settled on their debut. This album was like, ‘hey what’s up, hello, we’re The Jam, and we wish we were the Who but we’re too punk, so fuck you.’  Kicking it off with four chords and “ONE TWO THREE GO!” in “Art School,” the Jam immediately make their point. They’re here, they don’t give a fuck. They line themselves right in with bands like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys with “In The City,” a song which calls out police states, and the anti-gentrification anthem “Bricks and Mortar.” While may not necessarily filling the desire for angry, sloppy punk chords, In The City cannot possibly be described as anything less than a punk record. (AK)

The Heartbreakers – LAMF (1977)

While it may be the only studio album this band released, it influenced so many bands. Comprised with an impeccable lineup including the one and only Johnny Thunders, Walter Lure, Billy Rath, and Jerry Nolan, this album hits the nail on the head. This album immediately cuts to the chase with “Born To Lose,” an unforgettable song with a lazy guitar and drum intro. This album has all the heroin theme songs like “One Track Mind” (I said goddamn) and “Chinese Rocks” (co-written by Richard Hell and Dee Dee Ramone). Thunders’ Chuck Berry-worship guitar solos compliment the dirtiness of Lure’s power chords, and the album goes back and forth with their vocals. This record focuses on the sleaziness of the members – they were all well known junkies that just wanted to be loved. You can hear their upbringing on rock n roll but it’s played through dirty punk licks and blasting drums, courtesy of Nolan (who was in the New York Dolls with Thunders). All of the songs have their own bodies and can stand alone while also flowing perfectly into each other. While all the members bring their own individuality to the table, of course the spotlight is on Thunders – the trashiest, most tragic story of them all. He was born to lose, y’know? (AK)

Radio Birdman – Radios Appear (1978)

Australia doesn’t get enough love. I mean, they had The Saints, The New Christs, Hoodoo Gurus, Lime Spiders – but the shining star? Radio Birdman. Named after a misheard Iggy Pop lyric (actual lyric: “radio burnin’”), they are in your face, loud, and pure rock n’ roll in the form of punk chords, crashing drums, and loud vocals. The influence of Iggy is obvious in that they cover “TV Eye” but also in the overall attitude – they also borrow a lot from fellow Motor City band, MC5. And of course they shout Detroit out in “Murder City Nights,” a ripping song with a killer solo. The novelty surf track, “Aloha Steve and Danno,” rips a riff from the Hawaii Five-O theme, and the Blue Oyster Cult influence is apparent here. Radio Birdman are considered the forerunners of Australian punk and with a release like Radios Appear, it’s easy to see why. (AK)

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Descendents – Milo Goes To College (1982)

God, what a fucking solid album. All the way from the opening bass riff in “Myage” to the melodic guitar in “Jean Is Dead,” this is an album that consistently proves its worth. Milo is sprinkled with songs that somehow to pack a punch in less than a minute and aching heart jerkers like “Bikeage.” “Hope,” the rallying cry of the nice guy, is probably on every single college butthurt dude’s mix tape for the his best female friend who won’t notice his feelings. The album also has its ‘fuck you’s’ – “I’m Not A Loser,” dedicated to rich, ‘arrogant assholes,’ and “Parents,” which I personally blasted in my room my freshman year of high school every time my parents didn’t concede to my every whim. This album also has one of the greatest punk drummers of all time, Bill Stevenson. His blasting drums, under the fast powerchords Frank Navetta slams out, perfectly compliment Milo Aukerman’s angry yells protesting suburbia, drugged out frat dudes, and ex girlfriends. (AK)

Husker Du – New Day Rising (1985)

I guess a lot of people would put Zen Arcade here, right? While the band’s seminal record put them on the map and redefined punk, the third album hurtles in headfirst, demanding the attention of the listener. While it maintains a lot of the noise pop elements the first record had, New Day Rising shows the maturity of the band in less than a year. It is more intensely melodic, with powerful hooks and catchy choruses. Bob Mould and Grant Hart collaborated incredibly, but you can almost hear their headbutting during recording. This is most prominent during the title track, when Mould is wailing “new day rising,” over and over, almost desperately, on top of his heavily distorted guitar and the pounding drums of Hart that are almost competing. This record includes one of the greatest Grant Hart songs, “Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill,” along with the pleading Mould classic “Celebrated Summer,” arguably their finest song. Though often lumped in with hardcore bands because the record was released on SST Records (Dicks, Black Flag), this record completely eclipses the genre. While maintaining the angry, loud, and fast musical elements, they forego the stereotypical politically charged lyrics in favor of arty, bizarre, and romantic themes. (AK)

The Replacements – Let it Be (1984)

Sorry Ma… is the punk album. Pleased to Meet Me is the major label album. Tim is the popular album. And Let it Be is the best album. At least, that is, if you’re asking me. The Replacements’ influence in punk and alternative music is an undeniable force, particularly in their attitude towards writing and playing their absolute hearts out while being a perpetual rock n roll underdog. Let it Be, while being a solidly cohesive album, also marks a transitory period in the band’s history. Straight up rock n roll (“I Will Dare”) meets immature, toilet humor punk songwriting (“Gary’s Got a Boner”) meets heart wrenching ballads (“Unsatisfied” and “Androgynous”) while all still being undeniably replacements. The chemistry between the members of this band ebbed and flowed as they fell in and out of favor with one another, while remaining as explosive and irreplicable as one could ever want. The juxtaposition of the raucous guitars and indomitable spirit with soul-baring lyrics have made this band unrelentingly unforgettable, and this album something that will never not be relevant to generations of misfit kids. (AT)

Dickies – Dawn Of The Dickies (1979)

If the The Ramones are the pioneers of punk as we know it, The Dickies are the OG pop punk band. I mean, there’s poppy hooks, gang vocals, and  ridiculously fast drums. The Dickies were innovative; they took 1977 punk and put their own spin on it to create something weird and almost fucked up. They turned the snotty, angry genre into something humorous. This album starts with the blisteringly upbeat “Where Did His Eye Go,” which is almost Buzzcocks-esque, but seemingly more stereotypically punk than the Shelley sad boy standard. Leonard Graves Phillips’ voice reaches almost whining pitches as he sings over powerchords in “I’ve Got A Splitting Headachi,” a song with a powerful chorus that is impossible not to sing along to. And how could I leave out “Manny, Moe, and Jack”? The song, about an auto repair shop, is reminiscent of a car ride – I mean, it does start with a car starting, and ends with it crashing. It sounds like something you’d wanna listen on a summer day, windows down, playing loud. The Dickies also had incredibly interesting solos – not a standard of punk of their time, which typically leaned on Chuck Berry infused notes. This is all thanks to Stan Lee and Chuck Wagon’s dual guitars, almost competing with each other throughout the songs. The Dickies almost seem like a joke, but their talent shines through the stupidity. (AK)

Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady (1979)

At this point of time, I doubt this record counts as a compilation. This record is a staple to any punk, an incredibly solid  collection of singles by one of the greatest punk bands of all time. There’s not a single mediocre song on this record, and that’s because The Buzzcocks were not a mediocre band. If you’ve heard any of their John Peel sessions, you’d know this – it’s almost impossible for a band to sound that good on the radio, but they made it. The original punk heartbreak band, The Buzzcocks placed tough guitar riffs against sappy lyrics and somehow made it work. Standout tracks include “Promises,” a bittersweet song about how relationships can change; “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays,” an upbeat track with a trebly guitar hook and slamming chord progressions; and “Orgasmic Addict” which, while sounding upbeat and almost cute, is nearly as crude as a Dead Boys song. And of course, there’s “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)” which, while fitting for scorned lovers, also alludes to Pete Shelley’s bisexuality. This is a great, truly romantic album, altogether – riding on the highs of relationships (“Love You More”) and also the lows (“Oh Shit,” “What Do I Get?”) of being in love. Listen to this the next time you go through a breakup – there’s something for everyone. (AK)

Cock Sparrer – Shock Troops (1982)

An incredible, catchy album all the way through, Shock Troops is one of many albums that ends up lumped into the UK 82 and Oi genres. While poppier than other bands in those categories like Blitz and Chaos, their songs about being a working class punk in London have all the same attitude as songs like “Summer of 81” (Violators) and “Murder In The Subway” (Attak). This album features the anthemic “Take ‘Em All” which is a favorite for DJs to play at dirty dives to get the bar to sing along, as well as “We’re Coming Back,” the ultimate BFF theme song. The hook in the first song, “Where Are They Now,” catches you and forces you to keep listening, and there’s not a single song that could potentially bore you (besides maybe “Out On An Island,” but that’s a personal belief). The album coasts on pounding drums, treble filled guitar solos, and gang vocals you’ll learn by the second chorus. (AK)

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X – Los Angeles (1980)

True story: I got pink eye when I went with my parents to see X when I was 13, along with a Germs burn from a very hesitant Billy Zoom (who told me not to tell my mom – and readers, also, don’t tell my mom). Probably my punkest moment. Los Angeles is an incredible record, comprised of surfy and Chuck Berry worshipping licks from Billy Zoom, an incredible rhythm section thanks to John Doe and DJ Bonebrake, and one of the greatest front women of all time, Exene. Her shrill vocals harmonized perfectly with John Doe’s wailing. Kicking in the album with a diss track fit for any break up mix, “Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not,” you can already see the difference between X and most other LA bands of their time period. While a lot of bands at that time were playing sloppy, 3 chord songs over dubbed with incoherent yelling, X immediately proves they have the ability to take punk and refine it with relatable lyrics and rockabilly influenced guitar licks. The second track, “Johnny Hit And Run Paulene,” begins with a throwback to “Johnny B. Goode” and John Doe describes a date rape scenario. After their energy filled cover of “Soul Kitchen” (only fitting as Ray Manzarek played organ and produced the record), one of the best mosh parts of all time overtakes your speakers in “Nausea.” Truly an imitable record, Los Angeles still proves its worth today. Check out their performance in Decline of Western Civilization. (AK)

Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)

True story – I once had to get talked out of getting a corndog tatted on my forearm, because I’m a “fucking corndog.” This is probably the longest album on this list, spanning over 40 songs, and arguably the most minimal, while still being complex. I mean, this album changed my life. This album changed a lot of lives. This album is not stereotypically punk, even while being on SST Records. Instead, this album leans heavily on the jazz chords of Mike Watt and D Boon and the unshakeable words their lyrics screamed out over music that may not typically match. “History Lesson Pt II” completely sums up what it’s like to completely surrender yourself to music, even proclaiming their ‘band could be your life,’ if you let them. “Corona” is a plodding track with political overtones, so while it may not sound ‘up there’ with other SST bands like Black Flag and Saccharine Trust, the message is there. Mr. Narrator, this is Bob Dylan to me – this stupid punk band, making fun of themselves; this is what I want to hear. (AK)

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FEAR – The Record (1982)

Have you ever seen the video of Fear from Saturday Night Live, when they got banned? John Belushi said they “looked very frightening, but were really very nice” – before joining Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat), Tesco Vee (The Meatmen), Harley Flanagan and John Joseph (Cro-Mags) and John Brannan (Negative Approach) in the pit. They played “Beef Baloney” amongst a few other songs from The Record and tore apart the stage, getting them banned from the show. Punk as fuck. For a crude group of punks that caused half a million in damage, the album itself is tight as fuck – and Bill Stevenson deserves yet another shout out for mixing it. It kicks off with almost incoherent mumbling in “Let’s Have A War,” and rides off palm muted chords, Spit Stix’s consistent thudding, and Lee Ving’s screams declaring his hatred for the status quo and normies everywhere. The record coasts on an almost painful intensity, never once slowing down or losing its momentum. Take a look at the LA punks and you’d think they were just another group of dirty wastoids, but when you listen to the record you hear they’re actually talented. The album has the sarcastic classics “I Love Livin’ In The City” and “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones,” both about living in disgusting squalor. The ultimate end goal of Fear seems to be that they wanted to piss anyone and everyone off. With a plethora of shit talking and often politcally incorrect lyrics, they easily accomplish that. (AK)

Teengenerate – Get Action! (1995)

Bands like Teengenerate and Guitar Wolf helped put Japan on the map for punk music. With Get Action!, Teengenerate brings poppy elements to garage punk. The combination of Fink’s snarling vocals over crashing drums and Pagans-on-cocaine guitar almost sounds juvenile, but they manipulate their sound into something slightly less than cohesive. The record is raw and the production is subpar, but it’s catchy and danceable. “Dressed In Black,” the single, is full of chanting vocals and galloping drums. This is quickly followed by “Fake Fake Fake,” one of the songs where the Ramones influence is incredibly prevalent. The record careens to a halt with an almost unrecognizable version of “Shake Rattle and Roll” – a hurling tornado that almost touches on hardcore. Teengenerate are an easy gateway drug to more J-punk bands, and it’s definitely worth diving in more with bands like The Stalin, The Blue Hearts, and Gauze. (AK)

Dead Boys – Young, Loud, and Snotty (1977)

The Dead Boys were so far ahead of their time on this album. What a gritty, dirty album. Like, you get an almost slimy feeling when you hear “All This And More” and “I Need Lunch” right? This is one of the best albums to fuck to ever – (‘you got dents in your head that tell me all the beds you’ve been shoved on’). Starting with the classic slammer, “Sonic Reducer” that hooks you immediately with that Jeff Magnum bass riff. I’m not even sure if there’s a more apt title for the album – how snotty is “don’t need no mom and dad”? The song “What Love Is” is a perfect song to pogo and pump your first to, with a catchy chorus to bang your head to. Cheetah Chrome is by no means the greatest punk guitarists of all time, but his sound works perfect for this record. Paired with Stiv Bators’ “don’t give a fuck” attitude, literally spitting the words out at points, they created a masterpiece. On top of the actual bangers this album includes, the story behind it is pretty cool – it was produced by Genya Ravan, who called them out for trying to be cool with their swastikas. Ravan, a Jewish woman who had lost relatives during the Holocaust, completely put them in their place – too bad Chronic Sick didn’t take note. (AK)

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Adolescents – Adolescents (1981)

California’s hardcore scene had already been brewing by the time Adolescents came out. With the seminal release, the band joined the likes of Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, among others in the SoCal scene. This bright blue record branched out from the typical sound while remaining familiar, infusing gnarly, rock n’ roll solos with the typical fast paced drums and snarling vocals. The band lives up to their name, with immature, humorous, and often ironic lyrics. The album itself is full of diversity, with some songs fast and loud, like “Word Attack” and “LA Girl,” while others a little more spaced out (“Amoeba,” “Who is Who”). Then of course, there’s “Kids Of The Black Hole” – hitting the five minute mark, a rarity in hardcore punk from the time. This is definitely the band’s unofficial theme, about a punk house full of angsty teens rebelling against adults and authority. While expansive, the album maintains the same “angry teenager” undertones. This album is one of the most important records from Orange County, right up there with Agent Orange’s Living In Darkness, which actually featured Steve Soto on some tracks. (AK)

Green Day – Dookie (1994)

Yeah, I suppose this is their “sellout” record and, from my personal opinion, not their best (Insomniac or Kerplunk, by the way) – but this album influenced angsty teenagers all over the world to pick up their guitars and start shitty punk bands. This album was and still is a gateway drug for a lot of kids to get into punk, which is why it’s so important and necessary to mention. It features masturbation anthem “Longview” and the self-deprecating “Basket Case,” along with teen angst-driven “Coming Clean.” This album proves you don’t need fifty different instruments to sound good – the trio (who, to be fair, eventually garnered several more members with the release of American Idiot) manages to sound full and powerful with just guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. (AK)

Agent Orange – Living In Darkness (1981)

Another Orange County band, Agent Orange are a little darker (well, obviously, hence the title of the album) than their counterparts. They tamed the wild, fast hardcore of their peers, with surfy guitar riffs (even covering surf classic “Miserlou”) and charged bass and drums. AO essentially created the surf punk genre, or at least outlined it. I mean, some of their solos are ripped straight off a Link Wray album. It’s an extremely diverse, powerful album, almost touching down into post punk with “Living In Darkness.” The lyrics also reflect the overall dark sound, with Mike Palm’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. Then, of course, there’s “Bloodstains,” with a consistent, chugging guitar riff overdubbed by Palm’s angry snarl. Arguably one of the greater American punk songs, the surf-soaked solo takes you right back to songs by artists like the Ventures and Dick Dale. (AK)

Avengers – The Avengers (1983)

Black Flag. Minor Threat. Descendents. That’s what everyone said, everywhere I turned, when I decided to get into punk as a pre-teen. All dudes (save Kira Roessler’s stint in Black Flag), and the crowds in all of the photos I could find looked the same. Dude after dude after dude. So it was, to put it lightly, a breath of fresh air when I stumbled onto Avenger’s Pink Album. Blondie and Siouxsie were great and I loved them dearly, but the aggressively feminine sneer of Penelope Houston, backed by fast and unapologetic hardcore was something entirely new to me. I could (and will) argue for “We are the One” as being one of the best punk songs ever written.

I finally got to see Avengers just recently, in a small bar in Brooklyn. The majority of the front row was starry eyed femmes and the band themselves sounded fantastic. Even if there are scores of incredible female-fronted bands out there, we see far less older women fronting hardcore and punk bands than we do older men. However, I left incredibly disappointed. There is a song on the Pink Album that employs the N-word in both title and chorus, and Avengers made the choice it play it in 2016. The song was written in 1979 and it was not, is not, and never will be okay for a white woman to use that slur. Bands mentioned above, Descendents and Minor Threat, have offered auxiliary explanations and apologies for their use of slurs or poor handling of social topics as teens and have distanced themselves from those songs. Avengers, quite brazenly, marked their ignorance and immaturity in their decision to play that song. There are many, many ways to talk about class issues without resorting to using slurs and there are also many, many ways to be accountable for actions you took and words you said as a kid while moving forward and not breathing fire to racism. (AT)

X Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents (1978)

X Ray Spex, in and of themselves, were an innovative bands. They employed a saxophone player, Lora Logic and later Rudi Thomsen, and the shrill vocals of Poly Styrene. They were incredibly underrated during their time, but are a pivotal female fronted band. The album has tinges of goth and post-punk elements with songs like “The Day The Earth Turned Day-Glo,” showing they were ahead of their time. Other songs are more upbeat with the classic punk buzzsaw guitar. The saxophone is by no means necessary but definitely adds a lot more body to the record. Employing sax also sets them apart from other bands of their time. While the LP doesn’t have the sex driven single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” the reissue does. This is one of the few songs with OG sax player Logic featured. Styrene’s wails are raunchy, trashy, at times screeching – a little different from her contemporaries’ snarls and growls. Her lyrics, like her adopted name, focus on the materialistic needs of consumers in her time period. X Ray Spex remain incredibly important, not only musically, but as one of the pioneers of punk feminism.  (AK)

Blitz – Voice of a Generation (1982)

For me, this is the ultimate UK82 album. It’s raw, it’s angry, it’s full of fist-pumping anthems – Blitz were tough. Somehow they manage to take even “Vicious,” by Lou Reed, and turn it into a dirty, thudding street punk song. This album is Oi 101 – necessary for any street punk to have in their collection. Literally, this album is the ‘voice of a generation’ – songs uplifting the working class wearing boots n’ braces (okay, “Razors in the Night” was on the later re-release) and rebelling against hypocrites (’45 revolutions, playing on your stereo/not one revolution/on the street’). The album is peppered with anti-government songs like “Propaganda,” “Nation on Fire” and “Criminal Damage” which question authority and police. The album utilizes relatively intelligent imagery for what most people would disregard as just a few skinheads on the streets of England, and, of course, it has the clever play on words “4Q” (fuck you, obviously). (AK)

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Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980)

This is one of the albums that put California hardcore on the map for hardcore. A politically driven record, Fresh Fruit combines surf-on-cocaine guitar riffs and almost humorous leftist lyrics to create some of the most famous punk songs of all time. Jello Biafra targets conservatives and police states in almost every song without sounding like he’s preaching his own propaganda. Instead of interpreting his beliefs through anger, he almost takes a sarcastic approach to politics with songs like “Kill The Poor” and “Chemical Warfare.” “California Uber Allies” is arguably one of the most famous punk songs to come out of San Francisco, directly calling out the governor at the time for being overbearing and even comparing him to Hitler at points. This is record remains one of the greatest debut records of all time. (AK)

Misfits – Walk Among Us (1982)

While Danzig is more of the butt of a joke these days, and rightly so, the early Misfits albums are something of a perfect storm. It’s punk but it’s spooky and Halloween-themed, it’s bats and zombies and all that horror movie junk the punk kids love, while not necessarily sounding like anything that would come out of the “goth” scene. It’s rockabilly but not as old-school, and its kitschiness is something otherworldly. It’s three-chord, two-minute stuff, but in a good way. Danzig’s at his best on this album, sounding like an Elvis impersonator that was raised on B movies and anger. I’m not really quite sure what to make of later iterations of the Misfits and I try not to think of them too much, but Walk Among Us is frozen in time just like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. (AT)

The Cramps – Bad Music for Bad People (1984)

Shock was the name of the game when it came to The Cramps, who managed to make themselves absolutely synonymous with terms like “horror-punk” and “psychobilly.” The Cramps, similar to the Misfits but with arguably more musical proficiency, invoked the aesthetic of the B movies of the 50’s and 60’s in both their style and musical content. The seedy, bizarre underbelly of the film world stood as a mirror to the seedy, rebellious underbelly of the world of rock n roll at this time. The bass on this album is standout and unique, along with the growling vocals and the subject matter that certainly influenced horror fans and rockabilly punks alike. The Cramps further solidified their place in rockabilly history recently, when they played as Wanda Jackson’s backup band when she reissued a collection of her songs, breathing new life into rock n roll standards. (AT)

Gun Club – Fire Of Love (1981)

When I was sixteen I got my first car, a 1988 Toyota Camry only equipped with a tape deck. I’d peel through my parents’ cassettes, looking for familiarities, finding  gems like X and Minor Threat among mix tapes whose track lists had long since been rubbed off by time and love. Right when I was about to record a shitty mix over one of my mom’s old radio shows, I heard that wild, steady chord progression – “Sex Beat.” I was mesmerized. I spent the rest of the semester blaring that song as I’d roll into the parking lot at 8 AM, windows down, and rewinding it until the poor tape gave up and was only feeble squeals. That song still stands up and I still get the same chills I did when I first heard it. The rest of the album, of course, is also untouchable. “Sex Beat” goes into “Preaching The Blues,” wild and untamed, full of the twangs and licks of Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s slide and howling yelps. Then there’s one of the best love songs ever – “She’s Like Heroin To Me.” It’s got a steady, pounding beat, with Pierce’s wailing building up over the repetitive chorus until he yells “she cannot miss a vein.” Fire of Love is a boiling storm of sex and opiate addled rock n roll.  Gun Club are truly like no other, making two genres (blues and punk) that should’ve never made sense together sound powerfully cohesive. Sex beat, go! (AK)

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Wipers – Is This Real? (1980)

In a lot of ways, early punk and new wave blended seamlessly into one another. Talking Heads were playing shows at CBGB at the same time the Dead Boys were, and some bands vacillated between the two sounds – going between the more raw punk sound and the art rock aesthetic of new wave. Sometimes, though, they were in stark opposition, with each scene drawing derision and ire from the other. Then we have the Wipers, who were able to take the best of both genres and make something completely new. Is This Real? is simultaneously a fantastic punk album and a post-punk album, and helped to span the gap between the more radio friendly bands coming out of that era with the potable energy and power chords of the punk bands, without falling victim to the genre’s oft predictability or simplicity. It eludes definition and will defy any category you will try and put it into, which is why it stands out so far ahead. Is This Real? and the Wipers in general are absolutely crucial into understanding the time and place that they came out of, and the burgeoning state of alternative music that they helped to shape. (AT)

999 – Separates (1978)

Riding close on the tails of their eponymous debut, Separates already shows a difference in style than the first record – it’s poppier, but retains the punk energy. Going right in with “Homicide,” the production quality is instantly noticed. While 999 may boast “I’m Alive” and of course “Emergency,” Separates rivals it. The second song on the album, “Tulse Hill Night” continues the driving force of “Homicide” and the energy never wavers. Though released in 1978, 999 already breaches on post punk territory with this album. Elements of the genre begin to appear as the band combines the “fuck you” attitude in songs like “Wolf” with rock n roll riffs and a healthy dose of reverb. It’s like Singles Going Steady rear ended Entertainment. “Subterfuge” and “Action” clearly influenced bands like Gang of Four and Wire in the coming years. 999 is important, but Separates is the true shining star. (AK)

Adverts – Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts (1978)

One of the finest British punk debuts, Crossing The Red Sea is full of catchy hooks and dark lyrics. This album is a hurtling combination of gang vocals, proto-goth guitar riffs, and pounding drums. It kicks off with the hurricane that is “One Chord Wonders,” with TV Smith’s howls touching down atop Howard Pickup’s melodic licks and Gaye Advert’s thundering bass. Next up is the angsty teen’s anthem “Bored Teenagers” (which went on to be the name of an incredible compilation series, on a side note). The lyrics are reminiscent of “Kids Of The Blackhole” (Adolescents) in that it’s about kids stumbling around cluelessly trying to find meaning in anything. “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” may be the shining star of the record, with thudding drums and a repetitive chorus, though it was left off the initial release. It’s a satirical song about a patient receiving eye transplants from, of course, Gary Gilmore, famed murderer who demanded the death penalty. The album hints at the future of post punk, with songs like “On The Roof” and “Safety in Numbers” being the most progressively Gang Of Four-esque. (AK)

Germs – GI (1979)

I have two Germs burns – one on the outside of my wrist, placed gingerly on my wrist by Billy Zoom when I was 13, and one recent addition by my friend who had received his from one of the many drummers the band had gone through. The Germs are one of the seminal LA punk bands, surrounded by drugs and tragedy. From the moment you first hear Darby Crash’s snarl and Pat Smear’s raucous guitar in “What We Do Is Secret,” you know these kids had it – even if they didn’t know what “it” was. In “Lexicon Devil,” Crash pens himself as some fucked up god – which is kinda how he portrayed himself in real life. He was a train wreck, the Sid Vicious of LA. He based most of the lyrical content around his self destruction. It closes with the almost sludgy “Shut Down,” with Crash’s sneer in full effect. It’s a stark contrast to the overtime opener, helping the album careen to a halt. The album is tinged with bratty energy and declarations of eternal adolescence The album is abrasive and rowdy while maintaining some sort of consistency. Smear’s trained guitar paired with Lorna Doom’s thumping bass isn’t overthrown by the incoherent, snotty words spat out by Crash. But why would it be? Joan Jett herself produced the record, somehow taming the troupe of misfits into something that made sense. (AK)

Crass – The Feeding of the 5000 (1978)

It almost feels weird writing something about a band as ubiquitous as Crass. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I think it might be the band’s omnipresence that garners them a spot on this list as opposed to anything particularly unique about their sound. A million bands have done what they did, that’s undeniable, but Crass stands out in ways a lot of those bands don’t. Anarchy is more of a buzzword than a political ideology when it comes to punk, but Crass is unique in the way that they actually espoused anarchism instead of yelling it while wearing ripped designer clothes and murdering your girlfriend. Crass put forth the idea of a band being actually politically dangerous, and of galvanizing the alread-angry punk youth into channeling that anger. Do Crass belong on this list? Of course they do, of course they do, or course they fucking do. (AT)

Youth Of Today – Break Down The Walls (1986)

Another perfect example of a band far before their time, Youth of Today had an irreparable impact on the New York hardcore and straightedge scenes. Ray Cappo’s anger shines through his screams on top of chugging, fast chords and speeding drums. This is the band that helped create the sound known as “youth crew,” appealing to pissed off, young punks who needed something more than what ’77 had to offer. Even today, I can’t think of a single person I know who plays hardcore that doesn’t cite Youth of Today as an influence. A lot of bands around this time had a song, this band had a message – they backed the straightedge movement and though Cappo sounds pissed as fuck, most of their songs have positive undertones – “Make A Change” is about people needing to treat each other better, “Break Down The Walls” is about challenging stereotypes and being true to yourself. This album is full of sick mosh parts, too – if the breakdown in “Stabbed In The Back” doesn’t make you want to hurl your body across a pit, something’s wrong. (AK)

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Bad Brains – Bad Brains (1982)

The Bad Brains are a seminal band in the DC punk scene, right up there with bands like Minor Threat and Government Issue. HR’s distinctive snarl tops a spiraling tornado of musical talent – Dr. Know’s wailing guitar that’s literally all over the place, Earl Hudson’s blisteringly fast drums, and Daryl Jenifer’s plodding bass. While most contemporary hardcore was angry and socio-politcally driven, the Bad Brains could arguably one of the first “posi-core” bands. I mean, their song “Attitude” was the beginning of “PMA” (positive mental attitude). The record shows their musical range with quick tempo’d tracks like “Sailin’ On,” slower hardcore mosh riffs in “The Regulator,” and dub tracks like “I Love I Jah.” The Clash and ska bands had definitely incorporated elements of reggae into their music by this time, but BThere’s also the hardcore classic “Pay To Come,” one of the most beloved songs to come out of DC. During the verses HR spits out the words over Hudson’s insane blast beats, juxtaposing the reverb heavy chorus. Bad Brains’ still show their influence if you listen to current DCHC and NYHC bands, some of whom rip guitar riffs straight from this record. Even today, this legendary record sounds fresh, with its driving energy and uplifting lyrics. (AK)

Against Me! – Reinventing Axl Rose (2002)

Literally what the fuck is Against Me! doing on this list? I know, I get it. Bear with me for a second. Maybe it isn’t as punk or as iconic as the other albums on this list, that’s fair. It’s kinda folk punk, but it’s not washboards and banjos. And it’s sort of pop punk, except the breakup songs hit so much harder than your typical “why doesn’t she love me” fare that gets regurgitated ad nauseum by the bands of that genre. Laura Jane Grace has always proven herself to be an excellent songwriter, transforming a song like “I Still Love You Julie” from an monologue delivered with a yelping voice and an acoustic guitar into something deeper and fully developed in its desperate angst and near hopelessness. The album delivers big choruses on songs like “We Laugh at Danger” and “Pints of Guinness” (which is simultaneously a rallying cry and a heartbreaking anecdotal folk song), it delivers songs conveying feelings of disenfranchisement and political disillusionment that don’t seem outdated years later, which has caused other albums of the era to not stand the test of time quite as well. Reinventing’s biggest accomplishment, however, is its lasting impact on the scenes it  had travelled through. It stands head and shoulders above the other efforts coming out of cities like Gainesville at the time, and continues to sound fresh and new and unique even after the band themselves are going through constant musical evolution. It’s an entry point that doesn’t sound entry-level. (AT)

Limp Wrist – Thee Official Discography (2005)

Punk is unapologetic — a statement passed around and regurgitated a million times over. Too often, that becomes synonymous with a certain brand of offensive edginess that far too often simply serves to reify mainstream oppressive ideology. You know, those guys that sound like your racist uncle except with Black Flag bars inked somewhere on their body. Limp Wrist is unapologetic in a radical way. Taking the stage in the shortest of shorts and a leather cap, Martin Sorrendeguy is a masterful and commanding frontman (this goes for his work in Los Crudos as well), and the music itself is pure unrefined chaos. Songs like “I Love Hardcore Boys (I Love Boys Hardcore)” and “Does Your Daddy Know?” are absolutely crucial hardcore anthems, but ones that the gay kids that have always been a part of punk can relate to and unify over. Additionally, the band’s whole discography is up on YouTube — all 35 minutes of it. Brash, aggressive, fast and loud harcore with two middle fingers up to heteronormativity; Limp Wrist is crucial to any hardcore fan, but packs an extra punch for those who feel alienated due to their sexuality. (AT)

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Discharge – Why? (1981)

Some people may argue that Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing is the more penultimate release by Discharge, but I digress. From the pummeling drums in the first 30 seconds of the first track, “Visions of War,” it’s easy to hear how Discharge “invented” d-beat as a genre. The charactaristic drumbeat is prominent throughout the entire EP, clashing with grinding guitar, raw, distorted bass, and the gruff, incoherent growls of Cal Morris. Their lyrics are simple but full of messages of anarchy, anti-war, and rebellion. They’re chaotic but refined, they’re harsh and noisy but there’s still some semblance of a melody hiding in the crashing drums and two-note solos. Discharge are iconic – their influence is cited by tons of bands and walking through any given punk show you’ll see kids decorated in studs, sneers, and Discharge tees. (AK)

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Chronic Sick – Cutest Band In Hardcore (1983)

While definitely not as widely known as other New Jersey punk bands like The Misfits and Adrenalin OD, this record is coveted by collectors. Ignoring the cover, which features the band decked with swastikas and dresses, this album is solid all the way through. This album is full of noisy, raw powerchords and angry lyrics that sometimes venture into politically incorrect, disturbing territories. Favorite songs include the catchy “Dress Code” and the fucked up “Public Suicide.” While Chronic Sick may not seem much different from their other early hardcore counterparts, their energy is what makes them stand apart. Maybe it isn’t PC to have songs about prison rape, but they pull it off. Their album cover clearly depicts them wanting to get a rise out of anyone, and the lyrics solidify that. Isn’t that what punk’s about? (AK)

Bratmobile – Ladies, Women, and Girls (2000)

Quite frankly, I’m sick of women’s historic place in punk being reduced to “riot grrrl” like every and any girl with a guitar and something to say can be so easily pigeonholed and reduced to a two-word phrase. Bratmobile’s first album was a gem of that era, but they have since proven themselves as a force in punk music. Simultaneously snotty and bored, singing “a boy is good for nothing,”  Allison Wolfe asserts herself to the front of the punk rock boys club while expressing her derision for it. The Riot Grrrl era of punk usually gets summed up as an aside, and is usually attributed to Bikini Kill, but Bratmobile surpasses the cliches and consumability of what some bands put forth as “feminist punk rock.” It’s a solid garage-rock album, as smart and snarky as it is fast and catchy. Ladies, Women, and Girls is more refined than earlier efforts, undeniably, but shows that Bratmobile is much more than something cute or easily written off. (AT)

Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic (2003)

Maybe the band’s tragic history is what attracts me to this – all but one member dying in a bus crash, while in talks with a deal with Lookout! Records and Lollapalooza in the future. Or maybe it’s the incredibly elaborate guitar licks that hint at a glam rock influence, overdubbed with almost whining vocals. Regardless of what it is that was the initial draw, Guitar Romantic is one of the most important records in my collection.The lead guitar somehow manages not to overpower the words, filling every empty spot between verses and choruses. When Blink 182 and Green Day were playing generic pop punk, the Exploding Hearts revived the genre, picking up where 70s power pop left off. From the incredible opener, “Modern Kicks,” to the Chuck Berry infused final track “Still Crazy,” this album doesn’t quit. The competing vocals in “Thorns In Roses” draw the listener in and make it impossible to turn the record off. Then, of course, there’s “I’m A Pretender” – written with help from King Louie – spitting a raucously catchy chorus. This breaks out of the teen anthem, instead declaring “21 and it ain’t no fun.”  The band draws influence from every point of history, from the New York Dolls to Buddy Holly to the Ramones, all into one perfectly composed record that’s dripping with both power pop and punk. I’ll never forget the time I saw King Louie and Terry Six (with their current band, Terry & Louie) play almost the entire discography – I spent half the set alternating belting out the words and crying.  (AK)

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Anti Nowhere League – We Are… The League (1982)

I feel like a lot of people write off Anti Nowhere League as being dumb and and immature, and they’re not wrong. They are by no means “special” or anything different from their contempories. They even declare in the title track, “we are The League, and our music’s bad.” They don’t give a shit if you don’t like them. On that note, I consider this album one of the more stupidly crass records of 1982, and for that, I love it. The first song, as previously mentioned, is the band’s self summary of how fucked up they are. It’s simple three chord snotty punk, kicking off with trash hero Animal’s declaration that they are “The League.” The song is essentially a disclaimer, a “parental advisory” sticker for people who are easily offended. “I Hate… People” is another track solidifying the band’s disdain for humanity. “Let’s Break The Law” is one of the highlighting tracks and is their answer to the stereotypical anti-government punk song archetype. One of the most bizarre things about this album may be their sneering cover of Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London,” originally a folk song. The League put their own edge on it, making it less of a sappy folk anthem and more an anti-poverty warcry. The album, overall, is a caricature of the genre’s debauchery. It’s a combination of raunchiness, For a band that sticks with relatively simple riffs, they’re melodic enough to stick with you. And when you question their legitimacy, their response will be “so what, you boring little cunt?” (AK)

Honorable Proto Punk Mentions: MC5 – Kick Out The Jams, Stooges – Stooges, New York Dolls – New York Dolls, Television – Marquee Moon, Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground and Nico, Dictators – Go Girl Crazy

Personal Honorable Mentions – Anna Theodora: RVIVR – The Beauty Between, Sleater-Kinney – The Woods, Japanther – Beets, Lime, and Rice

Personal Honorable Mentions – Avalon Kenny: Void – Faith/Void Split (Faith side is sick, but y’all know), Protex – Strange Obsessions, Plimsouls – Everywhere At Oncevoidvoid.jpg

Terry Six: Not Just a Nice Boy

Terry & Louie is the newest project of Terry Six (Exploding Hearts, The Riffs, The Nice Boys) and King Louie Bankston (literally half your favorite bands, probably). Their two singles were released on Tuff Break Records, run by Six, and the label recently had a series of shows in New York City. Tuff Weekend included bands like Daddy Long Legs, Paul Collins Beat, The Jeanies, and of course, Terry & Louie. 

Was Tuff Weekend a success for you? What were the best bands you saw?
I think Tuff Weekend was a success. All the bands showed up, right? So that’s a start. I made sure to check in with most all bands that played and they all seemed to be pretty happy, as well as everyone that came out. Paul Collins is always a fave!

What are your plans with Terry & Louie? Are you releasing an LP any time soon?
Yes. We are now writing a full length LP as we speak. We are more than halfway finished and just working on finding the missing puzzle pieces. We should be recording by this coming summer and hopefully released by fall/winter 2016/2017.

How did you and Louie get back together? Why did you decide to start a band with him?
Before The Exploding Hearts tragedy, Louie, Adam, and myself were penning the follow up album to Guitar Romantic. Louie had already moved back to New Orleans by this time so we were calling in our writing sessions over the phone. I had written and composed the composition for “(I’m) Looking For A Heart” and wanted Louie’s help with lyrics. Then shortly after, the accident happened and we never got around to finishing it. That song stayed dormant in my mind for over ten years until I just picked up the phone, called Louie, and told him we need to finish this song. He flew out to Oakland, and we recorded the two singles. We realized then that we had a lot of unfinished business.

How have the other bands you guys have been in influenced Terry & Louie’s sound?
I don’t know if we are exactly influenced by any of our past bands, or any other bands for that matter, but Louie and I just do what we do. If we want to write a traditional powerpop song, we will. Same goes if we wanna do a glam/swamp number, Motown influence, punk or really anything, we will do it.

What bands are in your rotation right now?
Daddy Long Legs, Apache, Dancer, Jeanies, Dirty Fences, Long Knife, and Warm Soda are all in my current play rotation and always get tons of spin on my DJ nights.

Has moving to Oakland influenced your style at all?
I think just moving here has influenced me to write period. The last year I spent living in Portland I don’t think I touched my guitar at all. Don’t even think I looked at it.

Is Tuff Break working on expanding or is it more of a platform to release Terry & Louie?
Tuff Break has been and always will be a platform and home for The Exploding Hearts. That’s why it was started in the first place. Terry & Louie… Tuff Weekend… All things that came out of this project that I never thought would be possible. Now though, I am starting to look into working with other bands and expand. So hopefully soon enough I’ll get [some] new blood going.

How much did Louie contribute to the Exploding Hearts? Was it more of a mentorship or did he write music, etc?
Louie was very much both. He was ten years older than us, so he had passed on his knowledge regarding vocal arrangements, live performance, and songwriting structure. He was like a whirlwind in those days. He’d drop by me and Adam’s house, blow us away with these songs like “I’m A Pretender,” “Throwaway Style,” and “Sleeping Aides and Razorblades.” And then split and do his thing. Guitar Romantic wouldn’t do any justice if Louie wasn’t a part of it.

Are you working on any of your own projects?
Not really. Just focusing on expanding my studio and doing Terry & Louie when we can.

Peter Holsapple lays it out in black and white

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I learned what an amplifier was because of the dB’s. I remember being a little kid and watching VH1 with my mom and the video for “Amplifier” by the dB’s came on. That video is still pretty iconic in my life, and so are the dB’s. They’re a highly influential power pop band made up of incredibly talented musicians. This is an interview I did with Peter Holsapple recently. 

Are you working on anything new right now?

I play bass with Baron Von Rumblebuss, a children’s rock band led by Tray Batson. I’m playing bass in a little trio with Bob Northcott (from Little Diesel) and Terry Anderson (from The Fabulous Knobs, the Woods and the OAK Team), which is a bunch of fun. I am a five-year charter member of Radio Free Song Club, a podcast featuring other writers like Freedy Johnston, Victoria Williams and Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby.

What bands did you tour with in the dB’s early days? What were your favorite bands and do you have any particularly memorable stories from tour?

We obviously did a bunch of tours opening for R.E.M. over the years, but the first band we did a real tour with was Dave Edmunds Band through England and Wales in 1981. He’d just released DE7th, and while we didn’t get a lot of time together with Dave himself, his band were lovely gentlemen like Geraint Watkins. We toured with Squeeze for about two weeks. We spent a lot of time in our dressing room, blasting Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgaire and pouring non-dairy creamer on cigarette lighters…

North Carolina has a very specific sound, which you contributed to. What are some of the best parts of playing in NC? 

Here’s how I see that: all of the members of the band grew up together in Winston-Salem in the 60s and 70s, and we played in bands with each other from the time we were teenagers on; we utilized the same musical and regional vocabulary. That fairly predates any “NC sound” although that’s how we cut our teeth. By the time punk and new wave were starting up, we’d been playing and making records for years. We loved coming back to NC to play for our friends and family. We were happy to see other bands had sprung up in our absence and were making some noise, like the X-Teens and Secret Service. We were glad there were places for bands to play that didn’t require obligatory Allman Brothers covers.

Did living and playing in New York and New Orleans affect your sound at all?

I’m sure New York did. We were there for almost a decade. I’d been a closet New Yorker since I was a kid, laying on the living room floor, reading the second section of the Sunday NY Times and looking at Bottom Line ads. I knew, in my heart, I would end up in NYC. We had a demi-monde of bands with whom we were (and are) friends; there never seemed like much in the way of competition between bands like in LA, with only a couple notable exceptions who shall remain nameless. New Orleans began figuring in the history of the dB’s somewhere in the early 1980s when we began playing there and were associated with a manager from there. We loved the Meters and James Booker, and while we didn’t sound like a NOLA band, we tried things like a rhumba beat behind a cover of “Message From the Country” by the Move. So I guess we were influenced by everything we heard everywhere we went.

What did Mitch Easter contribute to the dB’s as a soundman/producer/friend in general?

Mitch and Chris were childhood best friends; their moms were also friends. Mitch had a couple years on us in terms of professional musicianship. Chris and I played with him in an early (for us) band, and we learned a bunch of Mitch’s complex songs while writing our own in his wake. I can still play a bunch of those songs today, almost 45 years later. I learned about song structure from those songs. Mitch has always been ‘one of us’ even without being a member of the band. In the studio, he’s always been generous with his time, energy and imagination. We all of us speak the same Winston-Salem parlance.

What were some of your post dB’s projects?

After The dB’s, I played for a couple of years with R.E.M. as a touring adjunct on the Green World Tour in 1989. I recorded the Out Of Time album with them, and I’m featured on acoustic guitar on their hit “Losing My Religion.” After I finished my tenure with them, I joined Continental Drifters, with whom I recorded 4 albums and toured the US and Europe. I also recorded two duo albums with Chris Stamey, Mavericks in 1993 and hERE aND nOW in 2009. I was musical director for three shows at The Arts at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn, New York. For over 20 years, I have served as touring and recording adjunct with Hootie & the Blowfish.

What made you decide to record and release Falling Off The Sky after a 25-year hiatus?

Chris and I had written songs that seemed like they’d benefit by being dB’s songs rather than duo album ones. We didn’t know if Gene and Will were interested or available, but they were both and we did some tracking a few years ago. Little by little, over the course of several years, we had an album that was strong enough to stand alongside the ones we made before. I love the record and am very proud of how it sounds.

Are there any future dBs related plans? Do you have any musical plans of your own?

Nothing on the table for the dB’s, and I’m playing solo showcases at 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida in January 2016. Writing and recording all the time, though.

What music are you currently listening to?

Just heard a great band last night, Loamland. Soulful, emotional and intuitive playing, great songs at first listen. All good things. Listening to middle-period (Bob Welch, Christine McVie) Fleetwood Mac and really enjoying it for the first time, having been a snob before. I try so hard to listen to educate myself now. Sam Smith was a revelation live. Life’s too short to not attempt to hear everything.

What do you think upcoming bands need to know about touring/playing/being in a band in general?

I think that the sooner you can get really good at writing and playing, the better off you’ll be. If you’re young AND good, that’s going to help your chances at trying to make a living as a rock band. Learn how to record your shit well, like how you place what mics you use and how not to overdose your recordings with reverb and compression. Make recordings you can pull off live too. Own your masters and lease them. Hold on to your publishing. Do your best to love your bandmates and treat them with respect. If you get to where you have a tour bus and driver, always thank your driver for getting you there safely when you leave the bus. Every time.

Talking TV with Richard Lloyd, pt 2.

Photo by Marcia Resnick

Photo by Marcia Resnick

[This is part of an ongoing series of excerpts from my conversation with Richard Lloyd in February 2015. For the first installment, click here.]

I mean you get this name, Television. [There was] one point when there was nothing going on and I went to Fred and Billy and said, “Why don’t we put a band together and call it Relevision?” but they were so scared of Tom, that he’d be pissed and that would be the end. It never happened. I’m not scared of him, He’s like a homeless person with a lot of money. He wouldn’t buy luggage to go on tour. He brought plastic bags with his clothes. Dirty clothes, that was his luggage. He had an apartment and I’ve only been like four times in forty years.

I try not to harbor ill will. I’m really happy for Billy and Fred and that they’re able to tour. That rhythm section is really underrated, like god, they are great. I don’t know why Billy’s not in the drummer’s Hall of Fame. I don’t know why Fred isn’t being called by bass player magazine to do lessons. I’m doing lessons for Guitar World. They’re videos plus the actual columns. I like to overload people, I like to leave them so they have nothing to hold onto except the guitar and it impacts on them slowly. I’ll say something and then twenty years later someone will say, “You know, he once said something to me and it changed my life.” Johnny Marr once said that to me. We were in London to do something with Patti Smith and I guess I saw their soundcheck because afterwards I said to Johnny, “You have the voice of an angel.” And he swears he didn’t know who I was but he found out later and it blew his mind because I was one of his idols.

The Replacements had destroyed everything in the dressing room at a hometown show. Garbage on the walls to the ceiling, broken light bulbs, and i just thought…there’s two types of people who play rock n roll. People who play because they don’t wanna grow up, then there’s the kind who play because they haven’t grown up. And man do I try and stay away from them. The Replacements had some component of that, They hadn’t grown up, they’re immature. It’s one thing to have Tho Who. Mature and they destroy their equipment knowing they go into debt but it’s part of your act. Nobody can ask you for an encore after you’ve smashed a guitar and blown up the drums. I mean it’s wonderful. But the replacements were part of the REM, can’t hear the vocals kind of mix. I don’t know why anyone would go for that. I mean certainly on the radio, you hear the vocals first. Record companies always say vocal plus.

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Marquee Moon – people never knew who did what. We didn’t want to play live and one of us be on one side and one of us be on the other, and people only hear who they’re in front of. So we always had mono mix so you couldn’t hear who was doing what. Mostly tom did rhythm and I did all the other parts. So on Marquee Moon I’m playing like, 60% of the guitar on that record, or more, because all of the intricacies are done by me. That’s the only television record as far as I’m concerned. After that the Capital record has some good things. I mean, I used to love playing those songs. I’m very proud that I wrote something that anyone else can’t play.

I still wanna do a half acoustic, half electric record. I really have exciting things happening. Terry Ork was the manager of Television, Little Johnny Jewel was released on Ork Records. That’s going to be in the package, [along with] my Rolling Stones cover of “Get Off My Cloud.” Another one with Chris Stamey covering a song I wrote. [It will have] his version, my version and a reggae song I wrote. Keith Richards couldn’t learn the bass part of the chorus. There was a girl who said, “I’ve never seen that,” and I go “What?” and she says, “You told Keith what to do, and he did it.” Being friends with Keith was too dangerous. He’s in the eye of the hurricane, everyone else gets hit by the storm wall. It’s hard to be a friend of his. He was on the next to die list so long the list died. Then a couple years ago he killed a coconut with his head. He also had hepatitis and got over it. Last thing he said to me was, “I’ll write all your epitaphs.”

[One time] Keith said, “I’m going to Jamaica later, wanna come along?” and I said, “I don’t have my passport, I don’t think I could get it in time, plus I don’t have money.” And I was like, “I think i’m gonna stay.” And I stayed with Keith’s mother and [his son] for the weekend. It was much better to stay there than go with Keith to Jamaica and probably get shot.

Catch Richard Lloyd with New York Junk and Faith October 30 at the Bowery Electric.

Power Pop Lives On With Paul Collins

I met Paul Collins at a show he ended up covering “Walking Out On Love” with the band. As someone who’s had “Hangin’ On The Telephone” ingrained into my memory from a young age (my first concert was Blondie when I was seven and my dad is a huge Nerves fan), having the opportunity to talk to him was really cool. I mean, the first time I heard “Rock n Roll Girl” I got goosebumps and wore the song out on my guitar. He’s still incredibly active and tours a lot, so if he’s ever in your area, don’t miss it.

Are you currently working on anything right now?
Yes. I’m currently writing a new album. I’m working on writing a new record and it’s gotta be the best record I’ve ever made. I don’t want to kid myself. I wanna make the best stuff I’ve ever done. You wanna set the bar as high as you can. I just put together a new band with a group from Jersey called Low Doses, they have a girl bass player. This is my first time working with a girl. It’s kind of cool, I’m old school so it’s good for me to do that. She’s really good. She’s a great bass player and singer. We just had our first rehearsal on Sunday. Our first show will be at the Acheron on October 23 as part of the Tuff Break Records weekend with Terry & Louie and a bunch of cool bands. We’re playing the after party for the Terry & Louie show, which is at The Wick. I’m looking to book shows around Brooklyn and Jersey. Right now I’m just having fun, going to shows, I saw the Sorrows at Matchless. It’s always fun to hear bands because you get ideas for songs and it spurs you to be good.

What was the best part about playing in bands like The Nerves, The Breakaways, and The Beat?
I think the best part was the material…I remember getting goosebumps listening to these songs. The first time Jack [Lee] played me “Hangin’ on the Telephone” was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe how good this is.” Being there at the moment and working up these songs with Jack and Peter [Case] in The Nerves and The Breakaways. I remember Peter playing “Rumble.” He had a teardrop Vox guitar plugged into a Vox amp and he started playing “Rumble” and I was just going, “Ohhh.” Shit like that, That’s what part of this music that really knocks me out. The first time I heard “Shake Some Action”…that music really knocks me out. I still don’t know why power pop is such a big struggle. “What I Like About You” and “My Sharona” hit the big time, but there are so many other great songs with power pop that are still just like, “Who is that, what is that?”

I’m proud of my early songs. I’m proud of how simple they are. A lot of the time i listen to the radio and they sound so magical and mysterious to me, How these bands get these sounds, and the vocals and harmonies. So of course when I joined The Nerves, Jack and Peter were writing songs and I hadn’t written a song yet. I was so green with envy. I learned how to play folk guitar and drums by playing pencils on a table. My musical education was pretty basic stuff. That’s how I created my style of really simple shit. It’s always hard to start writing and I never want to stop writing because if you stop it’s hard to start. I write a lot of songs, and it usually starts with a lot of really bad songs and you go, “Oh god, it’s over, I’m finished.” Then I was sitting around and I heard “Strawberry Fields” and I started singing this and I went and looked up the chords, and it’s all the same chords that I use. But, wow what they did with it. It kind of helped me get back into it. I just learned songs I like, I learned “Jessie’s Girl” to get in the groove. It spurred me to get back into the groove. Writing is really exciting but it’s also really hard for me.

What were some of your favorite bands to see and play with when you were younger?
We played with Mink DeVille in LA, that was awesome. I saw The Jam’s first two nights at The Whisky in the 70s and we were like, we were so blown away. It was like, “Man I don’t know, can we ever be that good?” They were so good. They were smoking, they were so hot. I saw Tom Petty with 25 people at The Whisky. We played with Devo, we played with DMZ. That Nerves tour we played with a lot cool bands. We toured with the Ramones, the original band, with Tommy on drums. That was really really cool. We had no idea they were going to be iconic. The coolest guy in that band was Dee Dee, he was so nice to us and he loved our songs. He was always like, “You have good songs, they’re cool, i really dig them.” They were cool to watch. They had a pretty heavy duty work ethic. So many years later, I can say,, “Yeah I toured with the original Ramones.” That’s pretty cool. Those are good memories from music. It was different I was 18, 19 years old so at the moment everyone was hustling and the competition was heavy. Everyone could say, “I wish I had enjoyed it more, I wish I knew how cool it was.” We wanted to make it. We were so driven to be successful. We wanted to bust out in a big way. I try to keep a lot of those principles and the work ethic in mind today. Trying to put a song past Jack and Peter was not easy. You really had to have your shit together. It was a good education for me as far as craftsmanship as a songwriter.

What bands are you into right now?
That’s a tough one. There are good bands. I tour with them, mostly underground bands. Purple Seven, Mother’s Children, Nagaldas. I love Adult Books from LA, they’re on Lollipop Records. I just don’t get it, most of the good music is off the radar. and there’s so much stuff. I spend a fair amount of time on the internet. You’ll be cruising along and you’ll see one band, and then you’ll see another band, and then another band and I find shit and I go, “Wow I’ve never listened to these.” I listened to The Spongetones this morning. It’s good as a writer so I keep myself fresh and motivated. When I hear other good songs i have to write something that good. It keeps me motivated.

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Do you have any cool tour stories?
Sex, drugs, and rock n roll? Oh god. I mean there were tons of those stories. It never ends, it’s not like it was back in the day of course. I did my drugs and I’m still doing my sex and my rock n roll. In the heyday of sex, drugs, and rock n roll it was just freakin’ nuts. I’m lucky i survived in one piece. There’s so many horror stories of people who barely got
out alive or didn’t get out at all.

But The Nerves had just finished the first leg of our one and only US tour and we were in LA. We had to go from LA to NY and then tour back. I’m not sure of the logic but if we didn’t do that it wasn’t a national tour. So we get as far as New York and we don’t know how to get back. It was so hard just to get there. We played most of the major cities. So we
wind up in NYC and my girlfriend at the time was staying in the Chelsea. Jack and Peter both decided they were going to go back to LA, so they went on a 2 week break and went and then they were going to come back and meet me. I’d stay in New York and do the booking. For some reason that logic worked for us. So I stayed at the Chelsea and tried to figure out how to get back. So one of the things I did was meet with Danny Fields, the manager of the Ramones. Trying to find people in the business was hard, you had to be somebody, and we weren’t anybody. But he was like, “Cool, come by my office.” So I go to his office, Ii had our package, our 45 and a write up. So i said, “We’d really like to do some shows with the Ramones.” He said, “I’ll tell you what. if you can get us a gig in Cincinnati, I’ll give you five days in Texas.” So I said, “Okay, can I use your phone?” He says sure and takes his black phone and turns it around. I’d been talking to this club in Cincinnati, called Bogarts. It’s still there today. So I had the booking agent’s number so I called him up and I was like, “I’m sitting in Danny Field’s office, how about a show with the Ramones?” and he goes, “What?” and Danny says “I’ll take it from here.” So he books this show. It’s the first punk show on record to happen in Cincinnati. So we did this show. We also did five shows with the Ramones in Texas. which was crazy. I remember the first show was in San Antonio. It’s August and it’s really really hot. and we wore these three piece suits, which were ridiculous. So we’re sitting there waiting and it’s like, noon, and we’re waiting for the Ramones to get to the club. We were standing there and looked kind of excited, we’re meeting the Ramones. So this 9 passenger station wagon pulls up, gravel parking lot, dust everywhere, and out come the Ramones and their girlfriends with their black leather jackets, and leather mini skirts, fishnet stockings, hair, the makeup, the lipstick. Right off Saint Marks. And it’s really hot and they’re looking around like. “What the hell are we doing in this dump?” It was really funny. I remember thinking, “Why do they have their girlfriends with them?” That’s really odd. They’re dressed up like Friday night on Saint Mark’s Place.

We were playing a military base. and those days, when they had shows, the bands would play two sets, we’d do a set then the Ramones and they’d turn the house and then we’d do a set and they would. So you play twice a night. So at this show the Ramones are the Ramones, Dee Dee was Dee Dee. He’d be a little spaced out or play a different song from the band but I don’t think anyone noticed. But we played this place with a low ceiling and Dee Dee would always do 1234 and jump up and down and play bass. So he’s hitting his head on this low ceiling so it’s not working out, so he stops doing that. Ao in between shows, I overhear johnny screaming at Dee Dee saying, “I don’t give a fuck, your job is to count off the songs and jump up and down.” So the next set I see Dee Dee is jumping up and down hitting his head. And I felt really bad for him. But he was the special guy in the band. Really sweet guy. I used to see him in the mid to late period and you’d never know what he was gonna look like. You’d see him and he’d be dressed in an English suit with a bowler hat and another time he’d look like he’d been up for 15 days. But he was rock n roll.

How do you feel about the newer power pop coming out now?

The biggest thing is all these young bands carrying the torch, making it their own. I’m not a power pop purist. Every once in a while when I’m writing I’m like, “Come on man, you have to write that huge killer power pop song.” But I’m not a purist in a sense of what people are doing today. Obviously rock n roll is made by and for young people. So however these kids interpret the music I was learning when I was their age, however they interpret the Plimsouls, and The Beat, and 20/20, and Dwight Twilley, and the Flamin’ Groovies, When they put in their mixture and make their songs, that’s fine with me. It’s just the way the music world works, how do you bust out? In those times it was Frampton Comes Alive and Fleetwood Mac, these six hundred thousand dollar records, so who’s going to listen to us in a basement?

Well you ended up having a huge influence on power pop.
If that’s true, I’m proud of that. I’m still hustling but that’s a good thing. But I feel that I have been fortunate in the sense that all of these projects I’ve been involved with produced really good music. I feel lucky. All of those things were real bands, what they produced was the sum of their parts. It was a great experience to work with those people. That was my favorite part, working with other people. That was part of the fun. You play a song and some guy goes. “Yeah lets put this part in” and you go, “Oh shit, that’s fucking awesome.” I think it’s really cool there’s a new generation of people who wanna promote this legacy, keep this music alive. This is the kind of music you have to go out of your way for, You have to buy tickets, spread the word, drag your friends to shows. It still needs that kind of support.There are great band still who play to six people and then 60 million people listening to shit you’re like “what the fuck is this shit?”

Catch Paul Collins at the Acheron on October 23.

The Cry talk power pop, touring, and getting arrested in graveyards

photo by Jenny Evans

photo by Jenny Evans

I met up with Brian Crace from The Cry when they were in Brooklyn September 5th for their show with Alan Merrill of The Arrows. The Cry are essentially Exploding Hearts worship, but they definitely have their own influence. They’re currently on a seven week tour supporting last year’s release “Dangerous Game.” At their show at the Grand Victory, they ended up covering “Walking Out On Love” by The Beat with Paul Collins, who they played a few dates with in the past.

What’s the most recent thing you’ve worked on?
We recorded a new song with the new lineup and that’s the only new thing we’ve done so far.

What’s the new lineup/how is it different?
We’re a five piece now. We have a new drummer and a new bass player. We added a keyboard player that does percussion and sings backgrounds and shit, and he plays guitar.

Are you working on new material soon?
Once this tour is over, we’re working on third record material, but I’m not sure how long it’s going to take.

Are you branching out from your old sound or are you staying the same?
Probably but a little different. With the first record and second record, they’re fairly different but they’re still power pop. This is a little glammier than the second record. I don’t know, that kind of shit just happens with us.

How long have you been on tour?
We’ve been on tour for almost five weeks now of a seven week tour.

What’s the best show you’ve played so far?
I think it’s a tie between yesterday [The Mercury Lounge with an after party at Manitoba’s] and the Viper Room in LA. Everything else has been up or down, hit or miss kind of shit.

What’s the best band you played with so far?
Probably Dinos Boys [in Atlanta] or Biters. We played with Biters when we were in Houston.

What’s the show your most excited about for this tour?
Probably the Biters show. We were trying to play with Wyldlife here. It just didn’t work out but I was stoked to play with them. Also pretty excited about playing with Alan Merrill.

What’s your favorite older powerpop band and your favorite newer power pop band?
Favorite new power pop band is probably the Barreracudas out of Atlanta. They just put out their second record. [As far as older] it’s always changing. I’ve been listening to a lot of Protex lately.

What bands have influenced your sound the most?
Exploding Hearts gave us our main influence when we first started out. We listened to that first record a lot. I’d heard it before and never liked it and then my singer showed it to me again, like a year after and it like hit me, like full force. Like shit dude. We get a lot of shit at home, everyone just calls us Exploding Hearts ripoffs. We played with Louie Bankston, who was in the band. He came up and sang Thorns In Roses with us once or twice which was cool So Exploding Hearts and The Booze out of Atlanta. Barreracudas and Biters. We really dig the Atlanta scene, what’s going on there.

Do any other Portland bands influence your music?
We’re fans of The Riffs and The Wipers. My singer loves old Portland punk. He grew up in the street punk scene there and just kind of gravitated toward power pop because he got a little bit older.

Wildest story from tour?
This tour, a couple of my band mates were banging a chick in the bathroom at the same time. Also my drummer got arrested. He was hanging out with some people, they wanted to show up in some graveyard in the middle of the night. So they were chilling for maybe ten minutes and the cops showed up, and someone yelled “run” so he dipped out. He got away, and he hid on someone’s front porch. He thought he was hidden but the people who lived at the house were home so they called the cops on him when they found him. He spent like eighteen hours in jail and we had a show the next day, and he didn’t get out until maybe an hour before we went on. That was in Atlanta.

Check out their Facebook for tour dates.

Talking TV with Richard Lloyd

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[I met Richard Lloyd in the seventh circle of Hell, also known as Times Square, the week it was one degree in New York City’s Winter 2015. He’s thirty minutes late and when he finally comes up, he’s tugging a rolling suitcase full of paintings behind him. We end up going to this tiny Italian restaurant a few blocks away, because it’s empty and quiet and seems like a good place to conduct an interview. The actual interview consisted of him basically telling me all these crazy stories about Television and being a musician, so it was really tough to compose into interview format. That’s why it’s taken me so long to publish it. I’m going to post the transcript of the conversation in installments, and this is the first one, which mostly focuses on Television’s beginning and end.]

When I was young, I didn’t make any wishes, because I thought wishes would come true. So I saved them all up, and about when I was in my mid teens, I made a wish. It had two aims: one, that I’d be a world famous guitarist of top rank. There’s room at the top if you’re good. It’s not like there’s a best guitarist ever. So the other was to somehow impact the history of rock n roll, irrevocably and without question. If you look at what happened, they both came true. I had a guy call me up who knew me from then. People used to ask me, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” and I’d say “I already am who I’m going to be when I grow up. They’d say, “What?” and I mean, I was making records and I would go around and play music. I’d make an irrevocable impact on the history of music. And I had no idea how it was going to happen.

And then I saw Tom [Verlaine], almost by accident play three songs on his own. [During] the second song, I turned to my friend Terry Ork, who wanted to manage a band, and I said, “If you put Tom and me together, you’ll have history.”

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Tom has “it,” the famous “it.” You can’t teach “it,”  you have to have some “it.” I’ve tried to teach “it” to people who don’t have “it” but it can’t be done. Anyway, I knew he had “it” but he was missing something, and I knew I had “it,” scads of it, but I was missing something. I saw that we could link, like gears in a clock. and that’s exactly what we ended up doing. So he and Richard Hell, who was his best friend, who was not playing bass at the time…they came down and we traded my guitar back and forth. Richard Myers and Tom Miller [Hell and Verlaine, respectively, at the time] whispered back and forth, and they came over and said, “Alright let’s try it.” So we talked Hell into playing bass. But he didn’t want to, he wanted to be a writer or a poet. But we talked him into playing bass again. Tom said he had a perfect drummer in Boston. The third day of rehearsal, Tom said, “Can I talk to you?  I want to apologize because he used to be a great drummer, now  he’s a jazz drummer. He’s playing this crap and it’s driving me crazy.” I said, “Tom, think about classic rock, all the best guitarists had nutty drummers. The Who – Keith Moon. The bass player was the stable one.” When we got Fred Smith, he was the stable one, eventually.

In the beginning, I stood in the middle. Richard and Tom sang most of the songs and I sang a couple. Then Tom wanted to be in the middle. Then Tom  decides to write a song, and we help him for like a year and a half to mess around with this song, and we get nowhere. I told him over two songs, “If you don’t give me equal songwriting, you can write your own thing and I’ll play anything you want me to play, but you can’t have that riff [for the song].”  So he had to cave. The same thing [happened later] with “Days,” I was playing a really playing a bastardized version of The Birds “Mr. Tambourine Main,” and he came in to the studio and he asked me to play it backwards. So I just played it and stopped in the middle of itand went backwards. But I told him he couldn’t have it, that was me, and it’s still me. So I got credit for two of the most beautiful songs on those records.

By the time we got to adventure, we had lots of songs, but he wanted to write songs in the studio.  For me, that was the beginning of the end.  I quit finally after 35 years because he wouldn’t tour if he had money, but if he was running low on money he’d do a tour. I don’t want someone else deciding how much money I make. I’d rather make less money than be dependent upon this guy like a bad girlfriend, who doesn’t call you, but then she does and you’re supposed to hop over. I was loyal to the band, he wasn’t. It took me awhile to find that out.

There were two of us…at first there were three, but Richard Hell treated everyone around him like an insect. Tom didn’t treat me like that because he needed me. I quit basically because Tom kept talking about making a record and I have a damn studio, and he goes “I can’t get a good drum sound in here.” and I’m like, “Have you listened to my records that I’ve made in here?” and he goes “No.” Every year that went by the same way, for 14 years til finally I said “That’s it.” I did miss that last show but I’d already decided to quit. That was going to be my swan song but thank god I didn’t have to do it.  The first time we broke up, we knew but the audience didn’t. No one knew when we played our last three nights that we were gonna go to Chinatown to have a  meal and say goodbye. but jazz quartets could do it all the time, why not rock n roll?

Talking Shit with Night Birds

Night-Birds-Avalon-Kenny

[Note: This is an interview I did in January 2014 for Rice and Bread Magazine.]

I recently had the chance to sit down (well, stand in a bathroom) with New Jersey punk band Night Birds, [who were] on tour with Torche and Municipal Waste. Night Birds are a quintessential punk band, and it’s easy to see why: their sound is a modern take on the California punk scene from the ‘80s with surfy guitar riffs, insane bass lines, pounding drums, and fast vocals. This isn’t a band to sleep on; their shows are wild and captivating due to the entire band’s stage presence.

You guys are working on a new album. How is that coming along?
Vocalist Brian Gorsegner: We’re still pretty much in the process of writing it, but here are my observations thus far: lyrically, there are more personal songs than we’ve ever had before.
Guitarist PJ Russo: Definitely one.
B: There’s at least two. We’ve never really done that before. We have no personal stuff on our other records. But now we thought it was time. With every record our mindset going in is, “How can we make this better than the last one?” so we try to push ourselves to not get lazy and write the same record again. We always try to take a notch up and I do think that we’ve done some more with this record… I will also say that one of the songs on it is my favorite song we’ve ever written.

When are you guys planning on having that out?
B: If we can get it done when we’re supposed to get it done… I found out yesterday that the release day is supposed to be October 6, but that’s a lot of pressure on us to get it done when we’re supposed to get it done. I’m giving us a 50/50 shot.
PJ: We’re basically, I don’t know, 85-90 percent done writing it, but that’s a fair estimate.
B: I’d lean more toward the 85 percent.
PJ: Almost there, we just have to work on sequencing; we’re working on a couple songs that aren’t completed yet. We’re really slow writers. It’s kind of embarrassing.
B: We’re not even slow. I think we’re more meticulous than slow. We don’t go weeks without trying.
PJ: But while other bands take a day to write a song, we’ll mull over an idea and almost over-think it to make sure it’s as good as it can be.
B: I’ve heard bands say they wrote their whole records in a weekend, and then they recorded it in a weekend, and then it was done. And it takes us like a year and a half because we throw songs away and we keep some, and I think we are definitely our biggest critic. If we’re going to put something out that’s going to be on a piece of wax for the rest of our lives, I want it to be something that we stand behind and we’re proud of instead of like, “Well, I think we’re done here; let’s get our check and fuckin’ cut a record.”
PJ: Yeah, I mean we can just write a whole album about like, jerking off and eating food….
B: …and doodoo.
PJ: I mean, we kind of do that.
B: But we do it in our own special way where people don’t realize what they’re hearing until it’s already infected in their brain.

On your last album, you have a cover of the theme to the movie Escape from New York. Are you going to have anything like this on the new record?
PJ: We’re working on, not exactly a surf version, but we’re fooling around with this one movie’s theme song. We might put it on somewhere, but it’s not going to be out front like “Escape from New York” was. That’s because we were able to take that song and make it something different from what it originally was.

What other songs do you have that reference movies?
PJ: Our 7″ was entirely about movies.
B: We reference a lot of movies by a guy named Frank Henenlotter, so on the Midnight Movies 7″ we reference Bad Biology, Frankenhooker, Basket Case, and Brain Damage. We also have a song about the movie It’s Alive. We probably have lines here and there, but no other songs that are full-on about movies. The song “Midnight Movies” references Pink Flamingos, The Exorcist, and Eraserhead.
PJ: We reference Seinfeld… we also have a song that’s a subtle nod at the movie It’s Pat. We’re nerds. Nerds are nerdy about smart stuff. We’re nerdy about watching TV.

Night-Birds-Avalon-Kenny-2

What other bands have influenced your sound?
B: When we started the band, it was more that we wanted to start a catchy punk band like The Misfits. Punk music, but set to the blueprint of pop music. Not just fast for the sake of being fast, but have melody and try to write hooks. So throughout doing that we pickup tricks from shit we’ve been listening to since childhood, from The Adolescents to…
PJ: …California punk, like early ’80s California punk, is an easy comparison to make. And that’s fair, because that’s mostly what I listen to; that’s mostly how I learned to play. We listen to a lot of Naked Raygun, a lot of Killed by Death stuff. Our drummer, Ryan, listens to a lot of rock.
B: And our bass player listens to a lot of jazz. So it’s like, that’s the stuff we enjoy and I like trying to write songs like that because they’re fun to play, and I like writing a melody. So it’s easy to lump it in like, “Oh, it sounds like punk from the past 30 years,” but I think we’re just as influenced by later-era The Ramones as we are the California stuff.
PJ: We did a cover of “The Job That Ate My Brain” by The Ramones.

Have the other bands you guys have been in before influenced Night Birds at all?
PJ: The band I was in before Brian asked me to join Night Birds called Phibes were definitely intentionally trying to sound like TSOL, and that was our only real thought. My guitar tone hasn’t switched too much. I just added reverb to make it surfier, but I haven’t changed it that much since my last band. Joe’s bass playing in The Ergs and his bass playing in general is just nuts.
B: I don’t know if old bands I’ve been in shaped the sound of the band I’m in now, but old bands that I’ve been in taught me how to be in a band. Each band I did taught me new experiences; you learn how to tour, and learn how to be on the road with other people and get along in tight quarters. The first time I toured the US, it was a fucking train wreck and everyone treated each other like shit. Everyone was in each other’s private space. For your band’s longevity, you need to know how to get along, and how to be able to behave with other people.
PJ: We rarely have spats, even when fucked up things happen. There’s a lot of understanding going on and a lot of… what’s the word I’m looking for?
B: Inner-band sex.
PJ: Yeah, that’s it. No, there’s a lot of shit put into perspective, before we jump on someone’s case we kind of take a step back and are like, “Okay, well what’s really going on?” and take everything in before we approach a situation.
B: It’s pretty mature of us.
PJ: If there’s ever a problem, it gets neutralized very quickly.
B: We handle our dealings in a very adult manner.
PJ: Yeah, because we’re adults, goddamnit!

What kind of equipment does it take to make your sound?
PJ: I use two amps onstage, and I daisy chain them together with the same pedals. One amp is Brian’s amp; it’s a Fender DeVille combo. The other is an old Fender Pro Reverb, and I basically turn the treble up and it annoys a lot of sound guys because it’s on the high end. When we were in Europe, every sound guy told us to turn my amps down because some clubs have decibel levels they can’t go over. So during sound check I would have my amp up too loud and they would be like, “Turn your amp down,” and I’d be like, “Okay,” and I would turn it down until it was inaudible, and they’d be like, “Okay, that sounds great,” and I would be like, “Okay whatever,” and then I would leave my amp onstage and when I would go onstage I would turn it back up. What are they going to do?

What are your favorite bands right now?
PJ: Our favorite bands right now are Torche and Municipal Waste. We played our first show with them last night and it was so much fun. They are so cool and friendly. Torche is fucking heavy. Municipal Waste is great. I like the band Nervosas. They’ve been working on a new record and they played a live set with all new songs on it. The drummer sent me the MP3s and it’s sick.

If you could do a cover set of any band, what would it be?
PJ: Maybe The Pagans, or The Turtles… that psychedelic band that did “Happy Together.”
B: Why did that just come out of your mouth? We should do a The Ergs cover set. So we’d make more money and people would come to see us.
PJ: Joe’s going to hate that.

What’s a non-punk band you guys like?
PJ: I’ve been listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy lately.
B: We listen to a lot of non-punk. I’d say if you put our musical tastes together in a bucket with all four of us, there’s probably an equal amount of non-punk as there is punk. I love Queen.
PJ: Motorhead?
B: Motorhead’s a punk band. Oh, and Cheap Girls… I told them the other day that they’re my current favorite non-punk band, and they got all butt-hurt because they think they’re a punk band. They sound like Goo Goo Dolls.

Night Birds’ Born to Die in Suburbia is out now on Fat Wreck Chords, and they also recently released a new song “Blank Eyes” off their upcoming album.

Personality Crisis

Daddy Issues

Daddy Issues

[This is an article I wrote for a website I previously worked for, You & Me & Us. It’s a compilation of my feelings, as well as friends of mine, on the concept of being a minority in the punk scene.]

Punk has always been a scene known for celebrating diversity. As a musical genre, punk encompasses all sorts of sounds; from power pop bands like The Nerves, to blistering d-beat, crust punk, and power-violence. Punk is also full of all different kinds of people with different backgrounds and is meant to be supportive of anyone and everyone involved. However, though it may seem like an inclusive scene, a lot of people seem to be marginalized by what some call a “straight white boys club.” Women have always struggled finding themselves a place within the scene. Even in our modern punk culture, homophobia can occasionally still be an issue, and these marginalized people may feel excluded due to their race, gender, or disabilities.

I identify as non-binary and look like a girl, so that’s what I feel the most comfortable talking about. I can’t speak on behalf of a person of color, a person with disabilities, or most people who identify as queer, so I’ve gathered stories and information from friends in the scene. Everyone has their own individual experiences, and while it’s not the norm, some local scenes are run by people who may feel excluded elsewhere. There have been plenty of cities whose scenes have welcomed others and me with open arms, but just as many that have turned me away or made me feel inferior. It sucks: we’re fucking living in 2015 and still seeing sexism, racism, and homophobia everyday, but why should we have to see it in the punk scene where we’re all supposed to feel welcome?

On being female: 

It’s hard enough to be a woman, period, but I’ve noticed in the punk scene, a lot of dudes don’t accept women right away (if at all). Hardcore is overrun with “bros,” and there’s some sort of unspoken test you have to pass to be able to hang with the dudes. I’ve always felt like I had to prove myself to be taken seriously, but there’s also a certain line you can’t go over. If you try and talk too much about certain bands or ideas, you’re trying to “show off.” I really get excited about music and so it is one of the few things I can actually hold a conversation about. Doesn’t mean I’m trying to show off or be some “punk guru,” it just means I give a shit. I’ve been looked down on, ignored, and passed over by the same dudes who claim to be feminists.

Female musicians may be looked over when dudes are looking to start bands, who may instead opt for a guy who is probably already in four or five bands. Women have to fight for recognition, no matter how good they are. As a female musician, I’ve heard these things that were supposed to be compliments:

 “Whoa, this band has a girl in it! Cool!” (When was the last time you heard someone say “neat, there’s a dude in this band!”) “She’s a really great guitarist, for a girl.” “I don’t typically like girl singers, but I like your band!” “You remind me of [Bikini Kill/The Slits/Punch/other female fronted band]!” 

The few “compliments” they get come down to them being recognized as “female musicians” as opposed to “musicians.” Guys seem to be surprised by the fact that chicks can actually play instruments, and even more shocked by the fact that they’re good at it. They may mean well, but these kinds of statements make women feel abject and reinforce the idea of women as “the other.” It’s great that women are being recognized, but we want to be known for our talent, not for our gender.

A lot of women also don’t feel safe at shows. My friend Kara, for example, doesn’t feel comfortable wearing dresses at shows anymore because she’s been felt up so many times. She’s had dudes literally lift up her dress and give the excuse, “well if you don’t want me to get hard then don’t wear a dress.” After having random dudes grind on her, she quit wearing dresses and skirts to shows. My friend Anna has also been groped at shows, and the dudes have defended it by saying they were just being friendly or it was an “accident,” citing that they ran into them in the pit. When I saw Spraynard in October, I was literally fingered while I was crowdsurfing. I felt so uncomfortable that I walked out. Beyond feeling inferior, feeling violated discourages a lot of women from attending punk shows. A lot of girls have learned that if a dude actually holds a conversation with you at a punk show, he probably just wants to fuck you. And that’s fucking depressing.

On being queer, nonbinary, or trans: 

I think the punk scene really wants to be supportive and welcoming of queer and trans people, but a lot of it is all talk. A lot of people will say they aren’t homophobic and that they support gay marriage, but will turn around and stare at and harass trans people who come to shows. My friend Mikey has on multiple times been called a “faggot” for wearing dresses to the shows they attend. They also said that they have had experiences where people have called them a “PC fag” for talking about gender issues and social responsibility. I’ve had friends, like Jamie, who have been jumped for being a “faggot,” things you usually only hear about or see in movies. Jamie was singled out for not conforming to the “bro” uniform at a Slapshot show and physically punished for it. Punk is about challenging social norms, but it doesn’t accept its own kind doing that. It’s not a place a lot of people feel comfortable being themselves.

possum

Poossum

However, it’s not all awful. A lot of people have been starting communities to make progress for punk queers. Queercore has been around since the mid 80s, and as a scene works towards making punk a safe environment for queer and trans punks. There’s a collective in New York City called Brooklyn Transcore that cultivates a welcoming scene, hosting events featuring local queer and trans bands. My friend Pierce is a queer, nonbinary punk and their band has started aligning with other queer bands in the city, which makes everything a lot easier and better for them. However, in many places they are still forced to codeswitch when they shouldn’t have to in a place that’s supposed to be about acceptance.

On having a disability:

On a different spectrum, having a physical disability can also make you feel inferior at punk shows. A lot of disabled people find that others feel “sorry” for them, even if they’re perfectly capable of holding their own. I have a friend, John, who has been going to punk shows for longer than most of the kids in the hardcore scene where I live have been alive. He’s seen how rowdy they can get, yet people try to “protect” him in the pit. While it’s well intentioned, it’s misplaced. He, and many other disabled people, don’t like the special privilege he seems to get for no due reason. He doesn’t like being treated like a special case, facing some of the same parallels POC, queers, and females deal with. He just wants to do the same dumb shit as other people without having to question other people’s interactions with him.

Mental illness, on the other hand, doesn’t have a physical appearance like being a girl or trans or a POC, but it still can make you feel left out. A lot of punks face anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders that make it hard to be around a lot of people and feeling unwelcome because of their physical attributes just makes it worse.

On being young:

While being a kid doesn’t necessarily make you a minority, a lot of scenes are hostile (or at least uninviting) to younger fans. Obviously, it’s hard to fit in anywhere when you’re a teenager. However, sometimes shows, a place youths should feel welcome, can often make them feel excluded. Sometimes, it’s just because the venue is 18 or 21 and up. Other times, it’s because the older fans think they are better or smarter than the younger kids. I always felt like I had to be three times as cool as the people around me when I was going to shows when I was a teenager, even going so far as lying about my age for three years. I felt like I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I was actually fifteen. However, some scenes are accepting of younger people. I went to Damaged City Fest and saw more younger kids in one room than I had than when I was going to shows in high school. Personally, I think teenagers should be encouraged to create and take part in the scene. Who’s going to carry the torch after we get jaded?

With all of the negative shit happening, there’s definitely progress happening. Sites like Is This Venue Accessible make it easier for disabled punks to attend shows, and the rise of queer communities within the punk scene have made it safer and more welcoming. Bands like RVIVR have encouraged queer youth to feel safe at shows and make an effort to promote gender equality. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about trans punks without mentioning Against Me!, a killer band fronted by a badass transwoman named Laura Jane Grace. She’s been an incredible influence on trans (and non-trans) youth, and is basically the perfect role model.

To make the scene better and easier to be a part of, there’s tons of progress we need to make. However, there’s one thing everyone can do, and that is just to be nice to each other. Having a tough guy attitude at hardcore shows is “cool” and all, but it’s not too hard to be welcoming and inclusive. Be kind. It’s 2015, and being a dick is decidedly unpunk.

Riding Through Hell With The Village Tricycle

Rebecca & Jeremy (Photo by Keith Warther)

Rebecca & Jeremy (Photo by Keith Warther)

[Note: This is part of a series of archived interviews I did for a website I previously worked for, Avant Greensboro. This interview was conducted for April 6th, 2012.]

For this week’s interview, Keith and I got to talk with one of Greensboro’s newer bands – and definitely one of the most original. The Village Tricycle consists of Rebecca Henderson on vocals, Mike O’Malley on drums and vocals, and Jeremy Harris on keyboards and vocals. Together, they make up some sort of musical-esque punk rock band. Keith and I went over to Jeremy and Rebecca’s house, where we talked to them on the porch. We arrived slightly early and Rebecca arrived slightly late, so Jeremy gave us a preview of a song that would be on their upcoming release that will be out sometime in May. When asked if it would be an EP or an LP, Rebecca only said, “It’ll be somewhere between 7 and 12 inches.” Before we departed, Rebecca and Jeremy insisted we give them locks of hair for their ‘hair jar.’ They made sure to inform us that it was their second jar – their first one had been stolen off their front porch.

How did you meet?

Jeremy Harris: One night, one dark and stormy night, I emerged from my apartment after a long and arduous journey into the dark realms of the human psyche. I had a long conversation with Lucifer, the prince of darkness. My mind was still reeling from all the things he had taught me. I came onto the porch to have a think, to have a cigarette. Rebecca was sitting here. Introduced herself.

Rebecca Henderson: I’m a bitch like that.

JH: She started asking me about my tattoo. I said something about Satan. “I’m friends with Satan.” She was like, “Oh cool, so are you like into voodoo stuff? That goth stuff?” Something about goth and I was just like, this bitch has no clue what she’s talking about. I heard ‘goth stuff’ and I was like, “I have just had a three hour long conversation with Lucifer” and I was like, “you don’t know me. You don’t know me.” And then I sat there in silence.

RH: He was acting like I was the weird one. You came down and twisted yourself on the couch in your underwear with a cigarette.

JH: After I had recovered from my experience, I apologized and we became friends after that. Rebecca knew Mike from Charlotte. I met Mike one night at a house and there was a piano and we all started singing. I’m one of those people who hears someone else is a musician and I’m like, psh, whatever, and then Mike sat on the piano and I was like, whoa.

RH: We’re a band with two musicians and three artists.

Jeremy & Rebecca (Photo by Keith Warther)

Jeremy & Rebecca (Photo by Keith Warther)

How long have you guys been playing music together?

JH: After that first night.

RH: We were like musical fuck buddies.

JH: Whenever we were all drunk in the same place we played together. At some point we decided to try to write a song.

RH: We were eating sushi and I was like, “Jeremy. I have these words in my head.”

JH: So we started trying to write a song and we needed a little extra something so we hounded Mike.

RH: We were like, “Mike, come write a song with us” and we wanted him to come with his bouzouki. But he came with these drums and we were like, “I guess you play drums now, motherfucker.” All in all we’ve been a band since January.

JH: We’d been fooling around since the summer and then we decided to write songs together.

How would you describe your music?

RH: It’s background porn music for gothic fans. Wait, what is it? It’s 1920s punk rock. It spans a pretty wide music gap because we decide we want to write a song in a certain style. Jeremy’s pretty good at picking out styles.

How do you write songs? Is it a joint effort or does one person do it?

JH: It’s totally collaborative. Working in a group always has to be completely collaborative or else the power dynamic is skewed. If I am ever in a band, not doing solo things, I feel like everyone has to write songs together. Since we live together, we are a lot of times on the same wavelength and we come up with a plan, a concept, a storyboard, so to speak. Then we’ll bring Mike in and he helps tidy up the loose ends.

RH: You’ll know when there’s a Mike moment in a song. We won’t write anything and have him come fill it in.

How did you get your name?

JH: I remember this story differently than what I’ve heard from Rebecca or Mike. I always remember joking between the three of us about who’s the third wheel. Who doesn’t belong, who’s the third wheel. Then we were like, we don’t have to have a third wheel, we can be a tricycle.

RH: Then we brought in the Village Bicycle idea and it became a ménage-tricycle – and then The Village Tricycle.

JH: Everyone gets a ride on The Village Tricycle.

What artists have influenced you the most?

RH: Influenced is a tricky word. I would say informed. A lot of the music we’ve heard has informed us to what we like about music but it’s not what you’d pick out as an influence.

JH: As far as influence goes, everything is an influence. If you like it you’ll incorporate it into your own art. If you hate it you’ll figure out why and why you don’t want it to be part of your art. As far as informed, I think that’s why we three work together. We come from very different musical backgrounds.

RH: I think that Mike brings the Tom Waits-carnival. Jeremy brings the classical Bjork-Tori Amos. I’m somewhere with post-modern riot Nick Cave.

JH: There are areas we overlap. We all enjoy musicals a lot.

RH: We all like punk a lot.

JH: We like trashy 80s music.

RH: Kate Bush. If we had to summarize one influence it would be Kate Bush. For me at least.

What was the best live show you’ve ever seen?

RH: [To Jeremy] Are you going to say Bjork?

JH: No…For me it would be Joanna Newsom, [which] was like one of the best in my memories because by the end of the show I could look in any direction and there was someone full out bawling in tears. The demographic was so wide. Everyone was so moved. Tied between that and Zola Jesus. I went to this show in Chapel Hill and there were literally twenty people there. It was so intimate and she’s like 4’11” and raging on the stage. It was so personal and she was drawing straight from ‘the source.’

RH: I think the hardest thing for a band to do is win over people when you don’t already know their music. So in that sense, I would say the best show I’ve seen probably to date in the sense that I sort of left completely fulfilled and exhausted…There’s this Puerto Rican punk band called Davila 666 that was playing with my friends’ band, Paint Fumes. They were highly recommended and their record is really cool. I think it’s weird that we do covers because I was into it and I was like “oh my God.” They did this cover of “Hanging On The Telephone” and it was all in Spanish but I was singing along in English. It was weird. Just because it was so surprising, that was the best show. We really like live music. I think music is meant to be seen live.

What inspires your mash ups and what artists to use?
RH: Number one, they’re very good practice as a band. We started off not doing original stuff. We liked certain songs and for us as artists they’re better in conversation with each other than on their own. It’s like a way of generating experience without generating content.

Hair Jar (Photo by Keith Warther)

Hair Jar (Photo by Keith Warther)

JH: The whole idea of the sum being better than the parts.

RH: It’s our invocation when we use them in our set.

JH: We’re drawing energy from those artists that have come before. I think it’s something everyone does. You hear one song and sing another song over it that reminds you of another. It’s become kind of an art. Songs that match up musically as well as a theme. And it’s just fun. Everyone likes to have a song that people recognize.

RH: Especially as a new band – just to tap into people’s psyche.

JH: You get that with straightforward covers but two or three songs you’re like, oh surprise! It’s another level of excitement.

What do you like best about playing in Greensboro?

RH: People will show up.

JH: I’ve never played anywhere else so I don’t have much to compare. I think for me one of the best things about playing here is being exposed to little niches of people. Little families that you normally wouldn’t come in contact with. Like were it not for playing at The Flatiron, there are all these people that I never would’ve met. I would have never gone to The Flatiron on my own. It’s just not ‘my scene.’ But that is rewarding. To be at parties and stuff. It’s this whole other group of people who are not a part of my immediate reality that you can come to appreciate.